'X Factor' Auditions Hit Los Angeles; 'Groups Are Dreadful,' Says Simon Cowell

Cowell and his ladies -- Paulina Rubio, Kelly Rowland and Demi Lovato -- come together at USC's Galen Center, but don't always agree.
Ray Mickshaw / FOX

The X Factor season three auditions arrived at USC's Galen Center this week and it looked like judges Simon Cowell, Paulina Rubio, Kelly Rowland and Demi Lovato had their work cut out for them.

While most would expect a strong showing from the people of Tinseltown, the L.A. auditions were disappointing in comparison to talent found in South Carolina and New Orleans.

The success of season two standouts Emblem3 and Fifth Harmony have brought a bevy of hopeful groups into the fold. “What I’m seeing a lot of is groups being put together by some very old people who last saw a boy band 20 years ago,” said Cowell. “So there is nothing spontaneous, nothing natural. They are dreadful.”

During Thursday's auditions, the head judge clearly had no patience for contrived acts and always asked groups how long they had been together and who was behind it.

Another new trend this season is the rise of Latin contenders, thanks in large part to the influence of new judge Rubio. “We wanted that,” Cowell explained. “I always felt that the Spanish market was really important. I would love some Spanish artists or one great Spanish artist for the label and so Paulina has been this beacon and they’re all attracted to her.”

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Rubio’s self-described “spice” was a perfect compliment to Lovato’s quippy comebacks and Rowland’s cool composure. “We have four completely different personalities," she said. "The four of us have a great sense of humor and a lot of knowledge about music and hits and songs and being on stage. That’s why we’re here."

Now outnumbered by the ladies, Cowell insists he couldn’t be happier with his new panel. The ladies had fun ganging up on Cowell and at one point; Rowland took the stage to “twerk” it out. 

But most of Thursday’s auditions was devoted to dishing out bad news to the not-so-talented hopefuls.

As usual, Cowell didn't mince words when he’s less than impressed. “I think you would be a really great group if none of you were in it,” he told one particularly peculiar pairing. “The rap was ridiculous. It's like a cat barking.”

Rubio’s critiques in her own brand of broken English were a little harder to interpret. At one point, she told one talented teen, “You remind me to Mercy Gray,” and later, “You’re like pop rocks with vinegar.” That’s either a great compliment or a painful put-down, depending on your translator.

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Rowland’s judging style was tactful, but honest, but the sexy singer said she’s still holding out hope for the right girl group to take the stage. “I’m waiting for the right one,” said Rowland, who made her name as a member of Destiny’s Child.

Thankfully, there were some standout moments from some stellar singers who brought the crowd to their feet and moved judges to tears.

One especially excellent showing came from a talented 13-year-old with big hair and an even bigger voice. “I want to look in your throat and see if there’s a tiny person in there singing,” said Rowland after the explosive audition brought the house down.

If one thing is clear about the estrogen-heavy panel, it’s that they’re giving extra “cute” points this season, as a few vocally challenged, but adorable contestants slid by despite Cowell’s protests.

With one day of auditions remaining, the ladies offered advice for future contenders. “Don’t sing an original song,” urged Lovato. “Most of the time, it’s not good.”

Spoken like a true judge.

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